A treasure that no longer glitters

Everyone, this is my Mum. Mum will be 87 in March and she lives in care because she has dementia.

Grandma Jan 2014

I don’t know if she still really knows me as every time I visit her, I announce, “Hello Mum, Flamingo Dancer has come to visit you”. I then reinforce the Mum, Daughter, Flamingo Dancer relationship several times in the next few sentences. She seems comfortable with me, so I assume she knows me. I don’t really want to know if she doesn’t; not yet. It hurt too much when my Dad no longer knew me in his last years…

She was looking particularly elegant today. The nurses are very caring, and always put a matching necklace with each outfit. Often they polish her nails as well! We joke that she dresses better now that when she had all her faculties, for Mum was known to have no colour sense at all!

Grandma 2 Jan 2014

While taking the photos, quick shots with my phone, I realised that Mum no longer knows how to smile. Mum was always quick with a witty line or comeback  (never equal to me, but still good), but that ability has long gone. I don’t know when her ability to smile slipped away, but the realisation that it had, has made me so profoundly sad.

Smiling is one of our first forms of communication. How we all wait for the baby’s first smile! Petite Fille greets everyone with a smile. Her laughter is so beautiful. Now old age has robbed Mum of that.

Still, we have some delightful conversations. This visit, we discussed the problem of the chickens who come in and make a mess all over her floor. There are no chickens, her room is spotless. She also told me that the tips of her toes had been cut off. I inspected her feet, and no injuries so I assume that the podiatrist had been!

It is impossible to have a “normal” conversation with Mum most days, so if she tells me there are pink rabbits in her room, or chickens, then that is what we will discuss. We have lots of discussions about the bird ornaments in her room, which she often thinks are live birds, and also about the artificial flowers in the room as well. This visit we had several conversations about the lovely artificial blue hydrangea tied with a ribbon to the handle of her walking frame. She offered me a cutting, but I said I already had one!

Sadness is always my companion as I leave my Mum, but I remind myself that she is safe, well cared for, and appears in a contented state of mind despite her dementia, so I just have to accept life as it is, and treasure the memories for both of us.


17 thoughts on “A treasure that no longer glitters

  1. My mother’s doctor told me dementia patients lose the ability to smile because that part of the brain which controls facial expressions is no longer working. Your mother probably still feels happy, but she can no longer express it with a smile. Which is sad. I’m sure she enjoys your visits however, even if she can’t recall your name or if you were even there earlier.


  2. My mother suffered from dementia (vascular, not Alzheimer’s) during the last few years of her life. She saw things that weren’t there and heard things that existed only in her own mind. I remember the pain of her slipping away, long before she finally died. At one point, she was really no longer my mother and that, I think, hurt more than her actual death.

    My mother always enjoyed being with her family, dementia notwithstanding, so I hope you have some good times with your mom, enough so that they’ll outweigh the inevitable frustration and sadness you must feel.

    Many hugs, Margy


  3. She sounds happy. For the most part the stories and ideas that are in her head seem pretty benign. So while she might not be connected to reality, the place she is spending her time seems like a good one. It is, of course, hard on you though.


  4. I suspect what you are going through with your Mum, and went through with your Dad, is very much like what I went through with husband. It is so very very hard to watch one you love diminish. Would you accept my hugs and best wishes for both of you?

    Sent from my iPad



  5. This poignant post brought tears to my eyes. One of things I’m most grateful for is that my mother did not have dementia. We had other challenges, of course, and there were times I felt as if we were dealing with a form of dementia, but not like this. My uncle had Alzheimer’s, and two close women friends whose mothers had dementia lost them recently. It’s a sad season for you and I’m so sorry.


  6. I understand the feeling of sadness about which you write….I felt the same with my Mum.
    Oh and the title of this blog post says so much. Thanks for sharing these facets of your life.


  7. Very nicely said. And that’s all you can do – be thankful that she is cared for and comfortable.

    I never really thought about the lack of smiling when my mother was declining with dementia, but I do know the one time that it really hit me – harder than the inane conversations or even the lack of her really knowing me without being reminded who I was. It was when I looked at a photograph taken of her and my father, and there was nothing … vacancy … in her eyes. I did not keep that photo, it haunted me too much.


  8. Cimmy went through this with both her grandmothers. And then she was there for my paternal grandmother, when she dealt with it. She was the first relative on my side of the family I introduced Cimmy to before we got married (no, not even my folks); she called her “our girl” and bid me to never let go of her. She couldn’t remember Cimmy when our daughter was still a wombmate. She passed before Princess was born.

    Then it became my maternal grandmother’s turn, both dementia and Alzheimer’s– talking to her is a bit like talking to a yo-yo. Cimmy cried at the news at first– “I don’t know if I can go through all of this again.” My folks just moved her and my grandfather into an assisted living apartment complex so Grandpa could get some help. I’m still amazed they are managing it, because you see, her only daughter, my mother… she has Parkinson’s. And then my father has had two serious chronic illnesses since 1992 at least. So, *cough* yeah, I empathize, although I’m sure my experience differs.


  9. Today would have been my mother’s 84th birthday. She died in 2005, but she had been gone for years due to dementia. It seemed to completely destroy her short term memory. She couldn’t speak, couldn’t smile (and she had an amazing smile!), couldn’t hug… but she didn’t seem to be able to remember anything long enough to be angry or frustrated, and never seemed to be in pain or discomfort. For that I am so grateful. Thanks- reading about your mother, today, makes me feel like we are all doing the best we can, and that love stays, even when memories fade.


  10. It appeared to me that you handle the situation incredibly well. I don’t think I’d be quick enough to say I already had a cutting of the hydrangea. Such a sad, hard time for you. Keep dancing.


  11. It is sad that we have so much company when it comes to experiencing the fragility of minds. Hopefully science comes up with prevention/treatment soon. Your mother looks very calm in the photos – it’s good that you do not have to worry about her care.


  12. My dad suffered from Alzheimer’s, so I can well understand what it’s like to visit someone in a similar condition. Before reading your post, I never realized that he’d forgotten how to smile, but he did. Alzheimer’s steals our loved ones little by little, so when they finally leave us, what is leaving is only a shell. Their true self is already gone. I remember the night my father died. My stepmother called to tell me, and my first thought was, “Wherever he is now, at least he’s all together again.” It was a comfort.

    Your mother is fortunate to have good care and such a loving daughter.


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